Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pulling the No. 3 Piston

I missed the extrication of the number 1 and 2 pistons 16 months ago. Biscuits and gravy seemed more important that hot, summer morning than reporting on happenings in the engine house.

All I could do -- once I arrived at the engine house -- was take pictures of empty cylinders and quote lead machinist Sam Thompson.

Yesterday, by chance, I arrived in time to witness the no. 3 piston being pulled out of the engine. I say "by chance" because Keith Berry and I had another appointment in the morning.

When we walked in around noon, Sam was the only volunteer working. The only other volunteer at work had left to attend to a medical appointment. All other other volunteers took the day off.

Sam snagged Keith as we walked in to the engine house. A strong back to pull the 75-pound piston straight up out of the cylinder would only take a minute or two.

I've learned as the photographer one must act fast. It took Keith less than a minute to position his large frame on top of the engines. I would've missed the picture had I not jumped on the deck of the locomotive at ahead of him.

I lifted my camera to eye level as Keith swiftly pulled on the piston. The action occured so quickly that I only snapped four shots -- two of the extrication and two of Sam lugging the piston off to the machine shop.

Sam is now ready to install the valve shaper on the no. three engine.

Events such as this have helped me learn more about the mechanics of a steam locomotive. The engines of the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 have a 10-inch bore and 12-inch stroke. The engines are considered double acting, as steam is injected into the engine during each stroke of the piston.

Sam confirmed that steam is injected into the top of the cylinder during the downward stroke and into the bottom during the upward stroke, "hopefully not at the same time."

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